UW Conference Intersects LGBTQ Rights and Global Health

Dr. Chandan Reddy

Dr. Chandan Reddy

While gay rights advocates are celebrating victories of marriage equality, the right to marry is not the only battle the LGBTQ community faces.

“There is far more that we could be doing than worrying about marriage. Equal health care is what we need to fight for now,” said Charlene Strong, co-founder of LFB social advocacy group, at the University of Washington’s annual Queering Global Health conference, which was held Tuesday, January 22.

About 75 global health and gay rights enthusiasts gathered at the University of Washington to discuss the relationship between social justice and homosexuality.

The conference addressed the health disparities in LGBTQ populations and ways to improve access to quality health care for all people. Organized by the UW Department of Global Health.

The event featured three panelists including Strong; Dr. Chandan Reddy, associate professor in the Department of English; and Amie Bishop, senior program adviser for Eastern Europe, PATH.

Panelists spoke about personal experiences with discrimination and related sexual orientation inequality to health injustice across the world.

Strong started off the conference by recounting the moments before her wife’s death. Since Washington did not legally recognize their relationship at the time, Strong was initially denied access to the hospital room.

“I shared my home, my life, my finances, and my bed for over 10 years with my wife. I did not need state approval to legitimize my relationship,” said Strong.

While this experience inspired her to become an advocate for LGBTQ rights, Strong explained that marriage equality is just one step in the gay rights movement.

In seven countries homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty.

“The issue of violence is huge for the LGBTQ people and the reporting of hate crimes is unreliable,” said Bishop.

Though Bishop works for an international organization, she said that it is essential to follow local advocacy groups when combatting social injustice.

Bishop explained, “The goal is to be supportive without causing harm and on-the- ground groups help you achieve that.”

Putting LGBTQ inequality in the larger context of discrimination, Reddy related sexual injustice to problems of using metrics to assess standards of life.

“Metrics incubate social inequality. We need to try to have culture undo the metric,” Reddy said.

All three panelists agreed that inclusive language is key to improving health care.

Strong said, “There are many layers to discrimination, spoken and unspoken. Once we speak everyone’s language, then we’ll be getting somewhere.”

For more information about global health events at the University of Washington campus click here.

Marika Price is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.